Pier Carpi’s somewhat controversial “Satan’s Wife” (1979) featured Satanic black mass rituals, naked exorcisms & lots of blood-soaked gore

By on March 8, 2018

Italian filmmaker Pier Carpi’s Satan’s Wife (1979) featured Satanic black mass rituals, naked exorcisms and lots of blood-soaked gore.

This somewhat controversial NSFW psychotronic horror flick offers up plenty more to gawk at, though — or shrink away from, if that’s your gut reaction — so if you haven’t seen this one before, why not have a long, leering look at the lusty and occasionally lubricious Satan’s Wife.


Satan’s Wife was originally titled Un’ombra nell’ombra, which translates roughly as “A Shadow in the Shadows,” or maybe a better translation might be “A Ghost in the Darkness,” despite there being no ghosts in the film whatsoever.

This is quite a dark film, though, both literally and figuratively — we’ll admit, the abysmally dark transfer isn’t easy to watch — and so maybe “a shadow in the shadows” is rather appropriate, come to think of it.


For U.S. theatrical distributors, Un’ombra nell’ombra was dubbed into English and released as Ring of Darkness.

Other alternate titles include Circle of Fear, and Les Vierges Damnees.


The plot — which may remind some viewers of much better movies from the same era, like The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby — follows four young women who, just for kicks, make a pact with Lucifer (Ezio Miani), joining a Satanic cult and surrendering over their mind and bodies in order to be be given powers beyond those granted to mere mortals.

The witchy women soon begin to regret giving over their lives in a sexual tryst, and decide they’ll use their newly-acquired powers only for good.


Years later, one of the four women — Carlotta Rhodes (Anne Heywood) — begins to lose control over her rebellious thirteen year-old daughter Daria (Lara Wendel), who, it seems, has inherited some of Mom’s Satanic powers.

As Daria becomes more and more interested in the occult, she begins to show signs that she too is under Satan’s powerful grasp, only she isn’t going to be good.

In fact, she’s going to be a very bad, bad girl.


Daria begins to cast evil spells against those who harm her, and she apparently has no remorse for the pain and suffering she’s knowingly causing others, including one school chum whose chest she fire-brands with her hand.

This bad behavior greatly troubles her mother, who doesn’t want her daughter to become an evil witch just as she enters womanhood, and so she gets her band of Satanic witches back together again.


Along with help from a defrocked priest (John Phillip Law), the witchy women — wearing white robes, freaky masks, and wielding swords — perform an exorcism on Daria in order to cast out her devilish demons.

There’s a great scene with Daria lying naked on a pentagram which culminates in a bizarre naked mother-daughter catfight (or maybe “kitten vs. cat” is more accurate) that simply has to be seen to be believed.



Satan’s Wife features wonderfully surreal cinematography from Guglielmo Mancori, who’d lensed director Pier Carpi’s only other directorial effort, Povero Cristo, as well as a number of Italian giallos, spaghetti westerns and sword & sandal epics.

Carpi — born Arnaldo Piero Carpi, he died in June 2000, age sixty — wrote the 1974 occult-themed fictional novel Un’ombra nell’ombra, which served as the basis for the adapted screenplay he based this film on.

He was mainly known as an adults-only comic book writer and author of numerous non-fiction titles, including one of which examined the history of magic. He also wrote a biography of Cagliostro, and a book of alleged prophecies of the late Pope John XXIII, which stirred up a bit of controversy.


Un’ombra nell’ombra was somewhat controversial (and likely still is) for the fact that it featured a few scenes with full-frontal nudity from underage German-born actress Lara Wendel (b. March 29, 1965), who was just fourteen when the film was released in Italy on October 29, 1979.

At that point, she’d already stirred up controversy with her appearance (much of it naked) in Pier Giuseppe Murgia’s controversial coming-of-age drama Maladolescenza (“Prohibited Games of Adolescence”), which was labeled child pornography fit for pedophiles and banned or heavily-edited due to its depictions of cunnilingus and pre-pubescent nudity.


Wendel appeared naked in many of the movies she appeared in during her career (which lasted until 1991), and she also posed nude for Italian Playboy several times, including a cover feature in 1985.

Her filmic résumé, however, also includes a few art films like Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Identification of a Woman (1982), and Federico Fellini’s Intervista (1987), although she mostly appeared in Italian giallos and horror pics like Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982), Joe D’Amato’s Killing Birds (1988), and Umberto Lenzi’s Ghosthouse (1988), which we told you about here.


Lara Wendel in Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982)

Satan’s Wife‘s all-star Euro cast also features John Phillip Law as the Exorcist (you may remember him from movies like Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik); English-born Anne Heywood (“Carlotta”); the lovely Austrian born Marisa Mell (“Agatha”); Greek-born Irene Papas (“Rafaella”), and several others you may recognize from their many onscreen roles.


Stelvio Cipriani’s funky, synth-heavy score was performed by members of the progressive rock band Goblin — Claudio Simonetti (keyboards), Massimo Morante (guitars), Fabio Pignatelli (bass), and Agostino Marangolo (drums) — who can be heard on lots of great Dario Argento films, including Profundo Rosso (1975) and Suspiria (1977).

The awesome soundtrack to Satan’s Wife is available from Light in the Attic.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.